How much THC and CBD will your plant have? Is there a limit? Let’s take a look inside the cannabis plant to see how genetics determines the content of cannabinoids and analyze whether you can predict the effects of a strain by its THC and CBD values.
When you start your adventure in cannabis cultivation, there are some things you should keep in mind. Have you created a suitable growing environment? Are you able to check it constantly? Do you know what to do with the plant when it is ready? All these things are important, but perhaps the issue of cannabinoid content is equally important.
How much THC and CBD will your plant have? When you discover that, you may wonder what predictions you can make from there. Even before that, you may be curious to know what influences these values in the first place. Today we will try to answer all those questions.
HOW GENETICS INFLUENCE IN THC AND CBD PROPORTIONS
During their genetic development, cannabis plants synthesize CBDA and THCA (which become CBD and THC when heated) from the same cannabinoid: CBGA. The fact that one, another, or both appear, depends on an enzyme that can take a form between two possibilities, which we will call A and B, and that are encoded by the same gene. Since each plant receives two genetic copies, there are only three options available. You will get two coding genes A, one coding gene A, and one B, or two encoders B. This distribution determines how much CBDA and how much THCA there will be in the plant.
Strains with two A encoders will have more CBD and minimum THC levels, such as the Solomatic CBD. Strains with one gene from each will have a ratio close to 1: 1, such as Painkiller XL and Dance World. Finally, plants that inherit two B encoders will become strains with higher THC levels. Among these strains are many of those we see today, such as the Royal Gorilla.
HY DO VAPES HAVE THC AND CBD LIMITS?
Today’s plants have more THC than ever. However, they can only reach certain levels, before reaching an unsurpassed peak. This happens because both THC and CBD are derived from the same gene, which means that there are strict limits on the possible ratios of both.
For THC, that limit is around 35% dry weight, and most high-potency strains reach 25-30%. In comparison, the upper limit for CBD is around 20-25%, and it can be seen in strains such as Solomatic CBD, which contains 21% of this cannabinoid. In strains that contain significant amounts of both cannabinoids, there are even more nuances in the limits. So, for example, it is very unlikely that a strain reaches 30% THC and 10% CBD, and vice versa.
PREDICTION OF THE EFFECTS OF VARIETIES ACCORDING TO THC AND CBD LEVELS
When you have an idea of how much THC and CBD your plant will have, you can begin to intuit what the effects will be. Most of us know the effects of strains with high THC content: increased appetite, decreased energy, increased senses, laughter, etc. If the CBD content is higher, there will be no psychoactive effect, and instead, you will have more subtle effects. In strains containing THC and CBD, psychoactive effects vary and are highly valued strains by many consumers as their effects tend to be more balanced than those containing higher THC concentrations.
CALCULATION OF THE PERCENTAGE OF CANNABINOIDS
Thanks to the latest advances in the cannabis market, we now have several methods to verify the percentages of THC and CBD. Each of these methods has its strengths, but perhaps the most widespread is high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). It is a method used by more than half of the sector, does not require heating and produces extremely accurate results compared to other methods. But there are other methods with very important applications, such as gas chromatography, which can detect dangerous volatile compounds. That is why it is used routinely in residual solvent tests.
That said, the most accessible method, and that provides equally good results, is thin layer chromatography (TLC). It usually begins as a sheet of glass or plastic that contains a thin layer of silica gel, cellulose or aluminum oxide. A solution containing the cannabis sample is then placed in this “plate”, where a solvent is removed by capillary action to separate the compounds from the solution. From there, the samples are ready to be analyzed using specialized TLC tests. It sounds confusing, but in reality, it is quite simple in practice. These tests can be obtained online on many pages.
Another method, supercritical fluid chromatography, uses CO₂ in its supercritical state when it presents the efficacy of a liquid and the practicality of a gas. Once finished, CO₂ is recycled and solvents that may be hazardous are discarded.